Where do I begin? It’s a been a week since the iranian.com music festival and I haven’ t been able to say a thing about it. I’m still in a state of shock and confusion — not so much about the concert itself, but by whole experience of revisiting the San Francisco Bay Area, my home for almost 10 years before I left for Mexico last November.
“I’m not coming back. I’m done with the Bay Area. I just can’t handle the stress, it drives me crazy,” I tell my friends and relatives in and around San Francisco. They look at me with disbelief. They don’t understand. I’m not sure if I even understand why I’m such a an emotional wreck over there.
“There are too many people I love and I can’t see all of them,” I say.
“How is that a problem? Why are you running away from people who love you?” they ask.
Those are good questions. But my answer is still lack of time. Lack of ability to concentrate for two seconds about what I’m doing next, where I’m supposed to be and who I’m supposed to meet.
“I can’t wait to go back to Mexico,” I say with all my heart to almost everyone I see.
“What have we done to you? What is the problem?”
Nothing, I insist. You have all been wonderful.
I knew going back to the Bay Area would be difficult in a variety of ways. So I decided I wasn’t going to stay for more than 10 days.
Believe me, the trip was intense, far beyond my worst fears. There were beautiful moments but I was mostly in a state of emotional paralysis.
First of all let me tell you a little about the music festival. The whole show was put together through a series of emails. When Saturday April 25 finally came around, I had trouble believing the show was about to happen. The leap from emails to reality was tremendous.
Every minute I felt there was going to be some disaster, something that may upset the musicians, the guests, the audience, the technicians, or…
What truly saved the event and made everything go smoothly were the volunteers. The moment I stepped into the Palace of Fine Arts, Zahra Mahloudji basically told me to shut up and leave her and other volunteers alone. Zahra knows me long enough to know that my involvement usually leads to trouble, confusion and added stress.
The biggest problem we had was that we did not have the ability to process credit cards. We thought the Palace ticket office could handle it but in reality they don’t even have ticket services. We had to do it ourselves. So our iranain.com team of geniuses — Kayvan, Foaad and Wayne — arrived a few hours early to install their own ticketing system. Don’t ask. It sounded so complicated I was sure there would be a major glitch. They were pretty much flawless, vali inside… degh kardam.
Nazy Kaviani was wonderful in helping the guests and organizing the volunteers to make sure they knew what they were supposed to do. Hadi, Mehran, Payam, Talieh, Marjan, Enayat, Ariya, Monda, Faranak, Maryam … (I’m sure I’m forgetting some names) worked very hard and efficiently. Dastetoon dard nakoneh. You all did a beautiful job.
I stood on the sideline of the Palace theater for almost the entire concert — about 4 hours? I was so nervous and worried that I couldn’t enjoy the performances as much as the audience. We had many musicians and performers and not enough time. All of them had legitimate needs and demands. They had to be accommodated in any way possible so that when their turn came to go on stage they would be in good spirits. It wasn’t the time or place to argue over anything. You comply with every wish.
Elham Jazab, our funny Comedian/Master of Ceremonies, was late. In a state of panic, I was preparing myself to mumble something on stage to open the show when she finally arrived. Thank you Almighty God! I briefed her for one minute and she jumped on stage with zest and energy. A total professional under pressure. She really got the crowd going.
Faranak Ravon’s husband Kourosh (on accoustic guitar) and her father Manouchehr (on flute) were delightful on stage. In my first blog about the festival I had invited talented local musicians to come forward and I’m glad those two did. Their performance really beh del neshast.
Composer/pianist Sahba Aminikia was next. He was everything I expected and much more. To skeptics who did not know him and were worried about audience reaction, all I have to say is, are you satisfied now? My instincts were true. His abstract interpretations of popular Iranian songs were amazing. Someone said his delivery was very much Russian in style. And that’s very possible. After all he did study music in St. Petersburg. I love his energy, free spirit, determination and of course musical talent. This man is going places.
Then it was Ziba Shirazi’s turn. I had seen her live in concert before and followed her work during the years. I knew she would easily win over the crowd with her smile and passion. Her music is from the heart and everyone feels it. It’s playful, lively, touching. And she got great support from her musicians, especially pianist Jose Miguel Yamal and Ardalan Payvar on accordion.
Before the end of Ziba’s performance, I got news that Hadi Khorsandi was in the house. He had first told me that he was going to send a message in support of iranian.com to be read at the festival but later decided to show up in person. It was such a beautiful gesture, one I will never forget. He’s one of my heroes and to have him there on stage was beyond amazing. He charmed and tickled the audience like nobody can. And get this: he promised to do a stand-up show just for iranian.com. Joonami Joon!
Then Kiosk’s Arash Sobhani came on stage accompanied by mutual “Chordoholic” friend Anoush Khazeni. They played a couple of Kiosk songs as well as one from Anoush’s new CD. We were behind on time so they decided to shorten their set. But they reminded us how far Rock and Blues have progressed among Iranians after more than two dark, bleak decades of almost total silence. They are the new generation and because of their pioneering work, the future of modern, contemporary music is very bright indeed.
Finally it was Faramarz Aslani’s turn. It was late and he was anxious. He barely waited for the introduction. He stormed onto the stage and the audience went wild. Wow! Faramarz Aslani… the man with immortal songs that bring back memories of lovers as well as “the good old days”. People shouted “Ageh Yeh Rooz!”, “Ahooye Vahshi”, and other songs we all know by heart. And Aslani delivered, with a calm, warm voice that prompted many to affectionately compare him with Leonard Cohen.
All the wonderful musicians and performers appeared for free or a fraction of their normal fee. To support iranian.com. On behalf of our entire team, I am eternally grateful of their kindness and generosity.
I saw so many friends, relatives and familiar faces. I said hello to a few and felt absolutely terrible for dashing off to take care of this or that business. I am painfully aware that my time with them was too short, reduced to salam and taarof and a quick rooboosi. These are people I love and care about and yet cannot spend quality time with. I feel I have been terribly rude, abrupt and frivolous. I feel really bad…
Thank you Farzad, thank you Nazy for your wonderful parties.
And I almost forgot! A great big thank you and appreciation to Javad
Yasari for the Moshaereh blog which encouraged so many good, kind
iranian.com readers to donate hundreds of dollars. Yek donya mamnoon! By the way, the Moshaereh generated more than 13,000 page views and aroud 1,500 comments! Dang! :o)
Monday April 27. My last day in the Bay Area.
Javaneh and I have an appointment at the Oakland Islamic Cultural Center. Our divorce was approved by the California courts the previous week and now we had to get an Islamic divorce in order to register it our Iranian shenasnameh.
We arrive on time. We say hello. We sit down. The secretary fills out the paper work. Her husband reads something in Arabic and asks each of us if we are absolutely sure if we want to get a divorce. We both say yes.
Papers are signed. It’s over.
Javaneh and I leave together. Outside I tell her I’ll send her some documents by mail. And we say goodbye.
I didn’t have a chance to wish her happiness.
There are more stories from my ten days in the Bay Area. I just can’t talk about (some of) them. And it kills me when I can’t talk.